Sarkis Bedevian, Benefactor, Supporter of Armenian Church and School, Receives Ellis Island Medal of Honor

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By Hagop Vartivarian

Sarkis Bedevian

RIVER EDGE, N.J. — Expressions of respect, tribute programs, book presentations and award ceremonies are occasions to acquaint the public, in general, and Armenian readers, in particular, with venerable individuals and benefactors, who are seldom spoken or written about. There are modest
American-Armenians who quietly and unassumingly make donations to the nation, homeland and church. These are true benefactors, to whom the Biblical expression, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3), applies.

Sarkis Bedevian, formerly of Jerusalem and now a resident of New Jersey, is such an affable national benefactor. He grew up in the environment of the St. James monastic community and attended Holy Translators School. He was on intimate terms with the patriarch and holy fathers, as well as the children
who would eventually become priests. He received his Armenian ethnic education through the Armenian Church. He left Palestine and came to the United States in 1959.

He received a scholarship from the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) to major in accounting and finance at New York University. This is how he got his start in the greatest city in the world. His industrious,  enterprising and persistent nature would slowly but steadily lead him to ever greater heights, to new horizons.

With every successful step, he became more involved with Armenian life and especially the church. As much success as he achieved, he gave back more to his nation, albeit silently. He held diverse positions within the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), including treasurer of the Diocesan Council for eight years. For 14 years, he served on the board of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund, making investments to produce revenue to address the various financial needs of our diocese in New York. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Nersess Seminary and the Committee of Friends of the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. He made a large contribution for the expansion of St. Leon Church in Fair Lawn, NJ and the construction of its adjoining annexes.

Besides his services to the local church and Diocese, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hovnanian School, making every effort to put the school on a solid financial basis and secure its future through the establishment of endowment funds. As a firm believer in Armenian schooling
and the importance of transmitting ethnic traditions and values to the new generations, he has also gotten like-minded Armenians involved in this cause.

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Sarkis Bedevian, and his wife, Ruth, became so excited about the downfall of the Soviet Union and the miraculous resurrection of Armenia, that they lost no time in committing themselves to the homeland’s reconstruction. After the earthquake of 1988, in the early 1990s, they became the benefactors of a new school in Gumri. They also established an endowment fund, whose annual income continues to be allocated to the newly-created Vazgenian Seminary by Lake Sevan. In compliance with the request of Karekin II,
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, they became the benefactors of a new cathedral in Vanadzor, St. Gregory of Narek, whose consecration was performed on the millennial anniversary of Narek’s death. Prior to the erection of this cathedral, only one church remained in Vanadzor, which had a population of 130,000, on account of the earthquake,
and it could barely accommodate 50 parishioners. In addition, the Bedevians built a youth center next to the cathedral, which offers a healthy and safe environment for local adolescents and youths to congregate. This institution
is also set up to provide meals to senior citizens.

Sarkis Bedevian has also committed himself to underwriting the costs of renovating the museum in the main monastery, which had been built in the 19th century. To be named after Khrimian Hairig, it will soon house a collection of works by Arshile Gorky, the father of Abstract Expressionism in America, which had been donated to the Mother See by the artist’s sister. The renovated museum will also contain works by other modern Armenian artists.

In recognition of these philanthropic gestures, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II has bestowed the St. Gregory the Illuminator First Order and St. Nersess Shnorhali medals upon the Bedevians. In 2008, Sarkis Bedevian became the godfather of the Blessing of Holy Muron in Echmiadzin.
This year, in turn, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

The couple deserves the highest respect for serving Holy Echmiadzin, the center of their faith and Armenia, the cradle of Armenian life and prosperity.

(Translated by Aris G. Sevag)

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